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The Cinderella Syndrome Isn't Just For Girls


Sheryl Sandburg's popular book, Lean In, is a career guide primary geared towards professional women. The Facebook CEO commented on an interesting observation she had seen in the workplace called Cinderella syndrome, the tendency for women to do their work and hope that someone will 'notice’ it.

Sheryl Sandburg's popular book, Lean In, is a career guide primarily geared toward professional women. The Facebook CEO commented on an interesting observation she had seen in the workplace called "Cinderella syndrome," which is the tendency for women to do their work and hope that someone will 'notice’ it. Clearly, Sandburg, who was an executive at Google prior to her position at Facebook, knows what she is talking about.

Cinderella Syndrome Isn't Just for Girls

Cinderella syndrome is a common phenomenon that can affect physicians as well. Male and female doctors who strive for leadership positions or non-clinical jobs often expect to be 'discovered,' and can become disappointed when that doesn't happen.

Recognizing the syndrome requires some honest introspection, but overcoming this flaw can pay off immensely.

Overcoming Cinderella syndrome

Make your wishes known

A physician who is a department chair at a prominent university shared a story of how she initially asked to be considered for her current position. When she became aware that a search committee was recruiting for a new chair, she knew she was qualified, but she was disappointed that she was not even under consideration. She arranged a meeting with the head of the search committee and asked, "What do I need to do to make this happen?" It was so obvious that she was qualified, but the executive simply responded, "We didn't know you wanted the position." This story does, indeed, have a happy ending, and the physician has served as chair of her department for years. But the key in this instance and in many others lies in expressing serious interest in the position.

Be qualified for the job

Another doctor, who is a very hard working physician, wants to become a travel writer. With little writing experience, and a medical specialty that is not typically associated with travel, he wishes to transition into the competitive field of travel journalism and wants to be well compensated for his work. While it is true that being a travel writer or a travel blogger does not require as much formal schooling as medicine, that does not mean that a physician can expect to 'announce' his presence and be welcomed with open arms and a huge paycheck. All work requires proving yourself and working your way up the ranks within that field.

Take credit for your achievements

When you work hard, you might think that others will notice. But you may need to bring your achievements to the attention of your supervisors. For example, you should regularly update your CV to reflect your latest achievements. Or submit an academic paper for publication to show your findings. Make sure to announce your achievements in your hospital newsletter and so forth, rather than waiting for others to take notice.

Be a team player

Accolades and recognition aren’t just for you. In the work setting, a physician has to learn how to think of others as well. If you only think about what you will achieve, while ignoring the ambitions of your colleagues, you can lose out on developing valuable connections. And, when you neglect to root for others, you can find yourself losing out on people who would root for you. Networking requires participation of all players. I know a physician who is great at networking. He promotes his goals with prospective collaborators. When he was disappointed that his networking was not helpful, an advisor pointed out to him that he was only working on one-sided benefits. Seeing success and collaboration only in terms of your own benefit can cause you to stagnant and can even backfire.

Cinderella syndrome can cause a professional to wonder why he or she is not advancing in the workplace. If you suffer from this for too long, you can eventually lose hope if things don’t work out according to your wishes. Working hard and doing what you are supposed to do isn't always good enough to help you reach ambitious goals. If you want to be a leader in medicine, you have to be qualified, you have to make your achievements known, you have to speak up about what your want and you need to be a team player.

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